Sheridan is Building on its Past While Investing in its Future

By Betsy Williams on February 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Antony Boshier

While the allure of the old West, a historic downtown and breathtaking scenery remain major components of its economic base, Sheridan County's community leaders are also cashing in on the next frontier: technology.

The leadership has not forgotten its roots, which are still flourishing in a tourism-based economy. But during the past year there's been an ad hoc economic development committee comprised of key members from the City of Sheridan, Sheridan County, Sheridan Chamber of Commerce, Forward Sheridan, and Wyoming Business Council actively working together on forward planning for the community. They've taken steps to ensure Sheridan County is more than just a vacation destination.

A recently completed streetscape improvement project welcomes residents and visitors alike to North Main Street, Sheridan’s main thoroughfare, and both the Downtown Sheridan Association and the North Main Neighborhood Association are working to better define the district through improved gateways, parks, trails, design standards and pedestrian and cyclist access.

Best of the West

Consistently ranked at the top of “best of the west” lists, Sheridan boasts a vibrant downtown that features a farmer’s market, a June-September monthly street festival that draws more than 3,000 each month, several seasonal events and the WYO, a live-performance theater.

“We have an amazing community,” says Stacie Coe, executive director of the Downtown Sheridan Association. “Everyone is so supportive and community-oriented.”

Renovation of historic downtown warehouses for business and residential options is creating new opportunity for Coe and her team.

New Business Incubator, Park

Looking toward the future, Sheridan County leaders have developed a successful business incubator that could be a game-changer in traditional health-care services reaping new jobs and investment for this community of 30,000.

Leveraging a $1 million grant provided by the Wyoming Business Council in late 2010, Sheridan County commissions and Forward Sheridan (the county’s public/private economic development agency), have created the High Tech Business Incubator.

“It has been a huge success,” says Forward Sheridan Executive Director Jay Stender. “By February 2011 we reached capacity and all of the offices were occupied. Our tenants are here because they either generate or aggregate data.”

Among those tenants is Apollo Telemedicine, which is working with other technology businesses and Forward Sheridan in introducing, evaluating and implementing video conferencing capabilities throughout hospitals and mental health clinics in the state.

“The outcome of this project is to reduce exporting medical care dollars to neighboring states and keep patients locally by improving access at the point of care,” Stender says. “The state exports between $110 and $120 million worth of health care each year. If we can implement telehealth and affect it by 10 or 15 percent, that’s another 10 or 15 million dollars that stays in the state. That keeps people in local hospitals, reduces costs and improves outcomes.”

Other tenants include one creating phone applications targeted to nurses and first responders, one that writes computer code, and another that provides environmental technology to Wyoming’s profitable extraction industry.

Another job generator is the new 38.5-acre High Tech Business Park, which has already landed its first tenant. The park, once a part of the Wrench Ranch, provides shovel-ready sites for advanced manufacturing businesses. With its interstate access and redundant high-speed Internet capabilities, it proved to be a lure for Vacutech, a manufacturer of commercial, industrial and medical central and mobile vacuum cleaning systems, which is creating 35 new jobs in the Sheridan area.

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